Bruce Sikes, who on Thursday (Oct. 17) was named the chancellor of the Arkansas Tech University-Ozark campus, said he wants to continue the innovative leadership that has allowed the campus to expand and serve more than 2,100 students per semester.
The Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees selected Sikes, the chief academic officer of ATU-Ozark since 2007, to be the third chancellor at Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus since it became part of the university system in 2003. He succeeds Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, who resigned after seven years as chancellor at ATU-Ozark to accept the presidency at Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio. Blondin joined ATU-Ozark as its chief academic officer in August 2005. She was promoted to chancellor in June 2006 and was instrumental in a period of growth at Ozark that included an enrollment increase of 562% and the addition of 16 new academic and technical programs. In fall 2012, enrollment at Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus rose above 2,000 students for the first time ever.
Sikes said in a Thursday interview he was proud to have served with Blondin and intends to stick with the goals and mission developed under her tenure.
“I really feel like that I’ve got to continue to be innovative ... in the way that we deliver our courses. I want to continue to be innovative in our services, in what we provide students,” Sikes said. “As a faculty and a staff, we came together and built a strategic plan for the campus. It’s not really my plan. It was developed by the whole crew. ... So we have a plan of action and we’re going to stick to that plan.”
Sikes has served as acting chancellor at Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus since July 1, and was selected by unanimous vote from 45 candidates who interviewed with the search advisory committee.
“He has virtually total support of the faculty on his campus, and he comes with my highest endorsement and recommendation as well,” Dr. Robert C. Brown, president of Arkansas Tech, said in a statement.
Sikes will also continue his role as chief academic officer until a replacement is found.
As chief academic officer over the past six years, Sikes has represented program faculty on the chancellor’s leadership team, supported and implemented strategic planning efforts, collaborated with faculty and staff on program development, directed campus-wide assessment strategies and coordinated educational partnerships in support of the mission of the campus.
Sikes has supervised and assisted 124 faculty members while managing and overseeing the budgets of 26 academic programs.
Prior to joining the Arkansas Tech-Ozark Campus administration, Sikes served as principal at Waldron High School from 1997-2007, assistant principal at Waldron High School from 1996-97, secondary instructor for Waldron Public Schools from 1989-96 and secondary instructor for Pleasant View Public Schools from 1986-89.
Sikes holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and a master’s degree in Education degree from the University of Central Arkansas. He is second vice president and a board member for the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce, a board member for United Way of Fort Smith Area and a member of the Ozark Rotary Club.
In addition to continuing the focus on innovation, Sikes said he plans to remain connected to the various communities connected to the ATU-Ozark campus.
“My responsibility is to listen and to see what’s going on in the community, in the communities we serve,” Sikes said.
Part of that includes maintaining relationships with the more than 200 partners in the region who help provide real-world training to the “allied health” programs at ATU-Ozark. Having businesses and organizations willing to work with the institution not only helps keep the training current, but provides options for students when they graduate, he said.
The growth in partners is needed to support the enrollment increases. Fall 2013 enrollment hit 2,156, up over the 2,033 in the Fall of 2012. Sikes said the goal is to not only continue the pace of growth, but to ensure a quality experience and a “career education that leads directly to a job.”
“It’s important that we stay focused on recruiting and retaining students, and also in seeing them (students) through to graduation,” Sikes said. “Ultimately, we want to help get a job for them (graduates).”
Sikes brought the interview back to the necessity for the organization to remain flexible and innovative in its approach to education.
“To borrow a phrase from Dr. Brown, I would tell you that an educational institution’s life blood is innovation,” Sikes said.
Sikes said innovation is necessary in four key areas: student accessibility; policies and procedures; delivery systems; and service to the various partners who work with ATU-Ozark.
Sikes said he is not nervous about the new role because he has a good support team.
“I’m a product of our faculty and staff. They really do a great job for our campus and I’m only as good as they are.”